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The tangled - story of 
Alger Hiss and 'Whittaker 
Chambers will never go 
away It may not be the 
“tragedy of history” Cham* 
bers made of it; but it was a 
tale of talents blighted and 
virtues twisted, one that 
will be perennially interest- 
ing. It even affords us an 
uncharacteristic glimpse of 
Richard Ninon going after 
the truth. 

Ironically, one of the 
tilings the Hiss camp tried 
to prove over 20 years ago 
, ■ that Chambers was a 
homosexual — has just been 
established; but in a way 
that enhances _ Chambers's 
credibility, instead of 
diminishing it 

It was the “liberal” side 
that tried to tarnish Cham- 
bers by saying he had been 
to a psychiatrist or was a 
homosexual. The Hiss law- 
yers put a psychiatrist on 
the stand with allegations 
that would make civil liber- 
tarians shudder today It 
was the Hiss side, too, that 
looked for vindication when 
the Justice Department 
began releasing FBI docu- 
ments under the Freedom 
of Information Act Actual- 
ly, the documents released 
so far, over I5/KX) pages of 
them, tend to substantiate’ 
the Chambers version of 
events- The FBI did not 
build a duplicate typewrit- 
er, as Hiss defenders have 
long, rather lamely, main- 

tained. In fact. Hoover was 
angry , that FBI men let 
others find the typewriter 
ahead of them. 

Now we can read a state- 
ment Chambers volunteer- 
ed to the FBI in 1S49. In it. 
Chambers admitted to 
’‘numerous homosexual ac- 
tivities in New York and 
Washington.” These were 
furtive anonymous encoun- 
ters in city parks and such 
places. They resemble the 
activities that led to the 
downfall of a Lyndon John- 
son aide Though such ac- 
tions reveal an unintegrat- 
ed personality, that kind of 
secret life is usually kept 
separate from a man’s 
profession and desired con- 
cerns. So it is believable 
that Chambers kept the en- 
counters a secret, even 
from fellow Communists, 
He also swore that his 
homosexual acts had ended, 
by 1939. 

Chambers felt the actions 
of which he was ashamed 
would come out in the 
course of the trial, and he 
wanted the FBI to know 
everything: and, damaging 
as it would be to him, he felt 
obliged to carry on. 

Allen Weinstein, the 
Smith College historian who. 
sought the release of the 
Hiss documents, finds that 
the homosexual admission 
fits the confirming pattern 
that is emerging from ail 
the newer revelations: “If 

Chambers was willing to ac- 
knowledge to the FBI these ! 
painful memories, does it 
not add to Ms overall cred- i 
ibillty as a witness? ! think 
that it does.” Other FBI 
interviews — especially 
with two Communists who 
admitted passing docu- 
ments to Chambers — - fill in 
the gaps of Chambers’s; 
story, and do so consistent ; 
ly. ! 

The tragedy arises from 
the fact that so much of I 
Hiss was admirable, and so 
much in Chambers was de- 
plorable. Yet the “good 
guy” lied, and the bad one 
told the truth on that one 
testable point of law over 
which they clashed.- 

Chambers was always a 
misfit. Hiss was well-at- 
tuned to Ms times — to the 
radical ’30s and the patriot- 
ic ’40s. When the two times 
were set at odds by Cham- 
bers’s crusading “cured 
drunk” anti-communism. 
Hiss thought total denial 
would save Mm — and it al- 
most did. Once set on that 
course, he has never been 
able to abandon it.- 

Both men were victims of 
their own story, trapped in 
it all the rest of their lives. 
Tne matter is tangled, and ; 
perfect right was on neither ; 
man’s side; but it is becotn- j 
ing clearer every day that 
Hiss was rightly convicted 
of perjury.